Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter Park Fire Department Respects Narrow Streets

Phelps Avenue, Winter Park, FL, is narrower than the typical 24 foot or wider roads found in newer suburbia.    Narrower roads slow traffic and are safer for kids, although the curb radius shown in the photo above is somewhat excessive and induces higher speed turns than necessary.    
Fire departments around the country often oppose construction of narrow streets out of concern such streets could delay a life saving response.  Unfortunately, wide streets make vehicular travel faster and more dangerous for kids playing, bicyclists, and other motorists.  I have heard more than one planner lament that fire departments do not purchase smaller and more maneuverable trucks.

Winter Park, Florida has many beautiful, tree canopy-covered narrow streets, many paved with bricks generations ago.  The Winter Park Fire Department recently purchased a new fire truck to better maneuver those narrow streets.   The story below, summarizing a City Commission meeting, appears in the Winter Park-Maitland Observer at this LINK:

  More than a year ago, the department initiated discussions that led to a change in the type of aerial apparatus it would purchase to replace the existing unit. Seeing an opportunity to improve efficiency and mobility, the modern design of this unit will offer the department the following efficiencies and added benefits:
• Increased maneuverability through traffic,
• Quicker access to some of the city’s narrow streets and turns which are more difficult to negotiate,
• Additional 300-cubic-feet of storage space
o The use of a long trailer design where one firefighter sits in the rear allows for the consolidation of existing tools and equipment onto one unit
This new firefighting unit combines the technology of today with the proven maneuverability of tiller-driven trucks. The new tractor-drawn aerial truck represents the return of an apparatus style that is seeing resurgence around the country. Winter Park joins other Florida cities such as Tampa, Jacksonville and Clearwater, which have recently returned these maneuverable units to their fire apparatus fleet.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Paint Bike Lanes Green

One of the green bike lane configurations approved by FDOT for  State-maintained thoroughfares.

Various studies conclude that bike lanes painted green are safer than conventional bike lanes.  The Florida Department of Transportation determined that more motorists signalized their intention to turn and a significantly higher percentage of motorists yielded to cyclists after painting a bike lane green.  In another study, painting a bike lane green reduced motorist encroachment on the bike lane by 40%.   The Portland Bike Lane study supports coloring bike lanes and cites additional studies from around the world.  Green paint (or in some cities, blue paint) undoubtedly makes motorists more aware of bike lanes.   

By visually narrowing the drive area, motorists will slow-down somewhat, improving safety for everyone.  Motorist speeds at Prospect Park, where New York City installed a protected green bike lane, declined by about 25%.  Green buffered bike lanes--also known as "cycle tracks"--will significantly increase bicyclist use.  One study concluded that the green buffered lane increased cycling 52 percent overall, 250 percent overall on weekends, 100% overall among women, and 650% among women on weekends.  Cyclists obviously feel safer with this type of infrastructure, and one study showed cycle tracks as the safest available biking infrastructure in an urban setting.  New York City reports cycling increased more than 50% after installation of a protected bike lane, while  car crashes decreased by more than a third.  Yet another study found a strong correlation between adding this type of infrastructure and economic development--in fact a 49% increase in retail sales on one street.  

Prospect Park Buffered Green Bike Lane (www.Streetfilms.org) -- inspiration for Central Florida.

The Florida Department of Transportation has approved of green bike lanes on State Highways, but only where the lanes conflict with turning motorist traffic.  Take a look at Chapter of FDOT's Plans Preparation Manual.  It's a start. 

In June 2011, the American Journal of Public Health published a study whose authors conclude, "To prevent crashes at intersections, we recommend installation of 'bike boxes' and markings that indicate the path of bicycle lanes across intersections."  You can view the abstract HERE.      

Finally, here is a LINK to the Federal Highway Administration's interim approval of green bike lanes.

In Winter Park, green bike lanes should be considered for next to Brookshire Elementary School (under reconstruction), Fairbanks Avenue (an FDOT thoroughfare set for reconstruction with a new sewer system),  and where cross streets intersect the Lakemont Avenue bike lanes.

Green paint costs pennies per linear foot.  It's well worth the lives it could save.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Government Subsidies for Highways Far Exceed Amtrak's

The Atlantic Cities is running an interesting piece by Eric Jaffe about Amtrak's record-setting ridership.  Notably, ticket purchases cover 85% of Amtrak's costs overall, and the northeast corridor turns a profit.  The 15% subsidy given to Amtrak--which primarily sustains long-distance interstate travel--pales in comparison to the 54% subsidy the Federal Government gives for highway spending in excess of gas tax receipts.   

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Federal Housing Administration Raises Cap on Commercial Space

The Congress for the New Urbanism ("CNU") won a battle with the federal government to loosen a pernicious regulation restricting commercial space in mixed-use residential buildings.  The new regulation, which increases the cap on commercial space from 25% to 35%, will enable U.S.-government chartered Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac to purchase mortgage debt on the secondary market for a larger variety of mixed-use buildings.  The goal is to make primary lending for such development more attractive.  Here is a LINK to the CNU write-up and related press coverage.